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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 11:58 GMT 12:58 UK
Richard and Judy riding high
By Emma Saunders
BBC News Online

Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley
The pair have been with Channel 4 since November 2001

TV couple Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan have signed a deal to stay with Channel 4 for another three years. BBC News Online looks at the ups and downs of their television career.

Journalists Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan became household names in the late 80s and 90s with their popular ITV magazine show, This Morning.

The programme, which they hosted for 13 years from 1988 to 2001, regularly pulled in audiences of two million, with its mix of chat, makeovers, health, cookery and fashion.

But the husband and wife team took a big risk two-and-a-half-years ago when they announced they were leaving the successful morning show to present a new teatime programme on Channel 4.

Steady

The simply titled Richard and Judy show had similarities to This Morning - celebrity guests and topical discussions - although it made a deliberate move away from regular makeover and fashion slots.

But early signs for the 1700 hour-long show did not look good.

Viewing figures were about 1.7m in the first week in November 2001, while BBC Two's The Weakest Link game show increased its share from 3.3m to 5.3m.

Richard and Judy's audience increased slowly but surely the following year, reaching 2m in December 2002.

Judy Finnigan and Richard Madeley
The couple's book club feature has proved popular

The show now gets up to 2.6m viewers - so while it has still not caught up with The Weakest Link, the future certainly looks more rosy.

So what is behind the modest improvement in viewing figures?

Matt Wells, media correspondent for The Guardian newspaper, is slightly bemused by the fact the programme is now considered a winner.

"It just seemed to go from being a perceived failure to a perceived success," he says.

"It was very different when they moved from ITV to Channel 4 - the ratings were very different and the couple just didn't seem to fit in."

Stars

Mr Wells thinks there may be several reasons for the show's turnaround in fortunes.

"I think it's become slightly cult-ish, they have better guests than they used to and their recent PR has been relentless.

"The ratings have improved slightly since the show started - and it performs regularly and solidly," he continues.

"Commissioners like the consistency, it brings in a key audience at the right time."

Another factor may be the competition on other terrestrial channels at the same time.

Charlize Theron
Guest Charlize Theron won the best actress Oscar this year

"Home and Away used to be on ITV at that time but then it moved to Five - there's nothing else on at that time, other than The Weakest Link, which is still way ahead," says Mr Wells.

Ian Burrell, media correspondent for the Independent newspaper, thinks the show was in crisis about 18 months ago but has improved since then.

"Channel 4 believes the better quality of guests has helped," he says.

Recent celebrity guests have included Charlize Theron, Tom Hanks, Ben Affleck, Halle Berry, Susan Sarandon, Jennifer Lopez, Leonardo DiCaprio and Cameron Diaz.

The programme also secured the first live TV interview with Rebecca Loos, who alleges she had an affair with married footballer David Beckham.

A spokeswoman for Richard and Judy's PR company, Taylor Herring, thinks the show's book club, which began in January this year, has helped to boost figures.

Hectic schedule

The regular feature has helped increase sales of books that have been included on the show.

Madeley and Finnigan's favourite book featured, Star of the Sea by Joseph O'Connor, saw a 350% sales increase and is the best selling book of 2004 to date.

"The book club has been very popular but it's not just that - it's an interesting show and the only magazine show on TV really. It's really well thought out," says the Taylor Herring spokeswoman.

So will the housewives' favourite pair be embarking on any new projects with Channel 4?

"I don't think so - they are very busy as it is, five days a week and all through term-time too," the spokeswoman says.

With a new three-year deal reputedly worth millions, Madeley and Finnigan will be concentrating on increasing their viewing figures further - at least until December 2007.




SEE ALSO:
Richard and Judy extend C4 deal
20 May 04  |  Entertainment
C4 censured for Richard and Judy plug
25 Feb 03  |  Entertainment
Richard and Judy defend show
22 Apr 02  |  Entertainment
Final curtain for Richard and Judy
12 Jul 01  |  Entertainment
Richard and Judy ride the storm
16 Aug 02  |  Entertainment


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